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Paragon Solution Spotlight: Protecting Hearts and Wallets — Recognizing and Avoiding Sweetheart Scams

02-12-24

This is part of a series – Paragon Solutions SpotlightRead previous posts here and here. These articles will discuss topics designed to help, educate and inform you. Today’s featured article address cell phone security. We thank our SVP, Information Technology and Deposit Operations, Kingston Blenis, for sharing his expertise today.

In the digital age, finding love often involves navigating the vast landscape of online dating. However, amid the sea of potential connections lies a hidden threat – romance /sweetheart scams. We would like to raise awareness about the prevalence of romance scams, offering insights into their tactics and providing practical tips for safeguarding oneself against these deceitful schemes.

Romance scammers are adept at exploiting emotions and trust to manipulate their victims. They will often invest time in building a seemingly genuine emotional connection with their victims. They may express affection, share personal stories, and create a sense of intimacy to establish trust. They will overwhelm the victim with declarations of love, compliments, and attention in a short period (aka Love Bombing). They will mimic the victim’s interests, values, and even their language to create a sense of familiarity and similarity, making the victim believe they’ve found someone who truly understands and connects with them. They may attempt to isolate the victim from friends and family, discouraging them from seeking advice or validation from others. Alternatively, they will target individuals who may be lonely, vulnerable, or going through a difficult period in their lives. By creating a sense of exclusivity, scammers make it more challenging for the victim to question the authenticity of the relationship while offering a false sense of companionship and understanding. Scammers will often introduce urgent situations or crises that require immediate financial assistance. By fabricating stories of emergencies or desperate situations, they exploit the victim’s empathy and desire to help, making them more likely to send money without questioning the authenticity of the situation.

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. individuals should approach online relationships, with skepticism. Look at the new relationship with a balanced perspective, question unrealistic scenarios, guard against deception, and make informed decisions by trusting their instincts. Always be skeptical of overly flattering messages or grand declarations of love from strangers.

The most significant red flag – requests for money or financial assistance. Individuals should never send money to someone they met online, especially if they haven’t met in person. They should never share personal or financial information with someone they haven’t met in real life.

Many scammers will claim to be deployed in the military, travelling on business, or some other scenario that prevents meeting in person. Individuals should always verify the identity of their online connections through video calls or other means.  The best verification is a real-world meeting in a public place such as a restaurant or crowded public park.  Never meet in a private or secluded location.

Individuals should Immediately cease communication with anyone they suspect might be a scammer. Block their calls/texts on cell phones and all social media platforms.  They should also report the scammer’s profile to the moderators of the site or platform they were originally contacted through.  Individuals should always prioritize personal safety and well-being above all else. As we navigate the complexities of online relationships, staying vigilant against romance scams is crucial. By understanding the tactics used by scammers, recognizing red flags, and adopting protective measures, individuals can ensure that their search for love remains safe and fulfilling while their protecting hearts and wallets from harm.

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